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SpaceX and Tesla could build ventilators, Musk tells Twitter fan

Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX and chief executive officer of Tesla, says that his companies could help fill the gap in the event of a ventilator shortage.
Enlarge / Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX and chief executive officer of Tesla, says that his companies could help fill the gap in the event of a ventilator shortage.
Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

As with previous pandemics that attack the lungs, one of the biggest worries about COVID-19 is that we simply won’t have enough ventilators to treat critically ill patients. It’s a valid concern, based on reports from Italy. The US government has confirmed that the nation has a stockpile of more than 10,000 ventilators, but President Trump also recently told Twitter that it should be the states’ responsibility to buy these vital life-saving devices.

Over the past few days, there have been growing calls to mobilize advanced manufacturing industries to meet this need, and on Wednesday night, Elon Musk replied to a fan on twitter that his companies “will make ventilators if there is a shortage.”

However, the rocket and electric car billionaire also used the social media platform to downplay the seriousness of the situation, despite increasingly scary predictions from public health experts that appear to have woken the US government from its complacency.

Over in the UK, where there are fewer than 6,000 ventilators available to its National Health Service, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has already called for industrial mobilization. Companies including Rolls-Royce (the jet engine maker, not the car company), Airbus, and Jaguar Land Rover have been asked if they can help address the pending shortage, and blueprints have been sent to more than 60 firms, according to The Guardian.

Meanwhile in Italy, supply chain issues and the lack of a critical part has seen at least one hospital turn to 3D printing to keep the machines running. Since no good deed goes unpunished, the original manufacturer of the vital valve—which it could not supply—has threatened to sue the printer.

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